Passengers were delighted to see harbour porpoises close to the ship even within the harbour wall and breaching white-beaked dolphins not even half an hour into the sailing.
We try to be out on deck watch when we are leaving or approaching the River Tyne, as it seems that some white-beaked dolphins are occupying an area close to Tynemouth. This has not only paid off in that we have had several sightings of white-beaked dolphins but we even spotted a bottlenose dolphin on Friday afternoon!
Yesterday morning (SUnday), despite being able to see less than five kilometres ahead and rain throughout the morning, the calm seas (almost no wind and low swells) made for good spotting within one kilometre of the ship. The passengers that braved the rain were rewarded with sightings of white-beaked dolphins and harbour porpoises. In addition to our sightings from the observation deck a minke whale was spotted by the ORCA survey team stationed on the bridge of the King.
The wet weather continued throughout the day yet it did not dampen the enthusiasm to spot wildlife as we sailed along the English coast in the evening. Our efforts were rewarded with several sightings including a group of bottlenose dolphins; one of which passed directly in front of the bow of the ship.
Bottlenose dolphins are quite big stocky dolphins that can reach a maximum length of up to 4m. They are probably the dolphins that most people are familiar with, yet historically there was no significant presence of these dolphins off north-east England. It is believed that only in recent years, the last decade or so, have the bottlenose dolphins inhabiting Scottish waters expanded their range south as far as the Durham coast. These days bottlenose dolphins are seen fairly regularly inshore along the English coast in the North Sea. However, from the King we often only see them in the distance so it was very special to see them so close to the ship and in such detail.
Fingers crossed for more calm seas, jumping dolphins, passing porpoises and maybe, just maybe, a breaching minke whale. Helen joined me on the KING on Wednesday to start her four-week Wildlife Officer placement as Amelia completed hers this week, we wish her all the best for her future.
Come back again next week to find out whether Helen has had her first whale sighting in the North Sea!
Wildlife Officer – North Sea
Photo: Bottlenose dolphin, Wildlife Officer stock image